Washington-esque Penguins Lose Game Two

J.R. LiputContributor IMay 2, 2010

Through the opening 10 minutes of Sunday's Game Two of the NHL Eastern Conference playoffs in Pittsburgh, it seemed as if the Penguins were poised to take charge of their second-round series against the Montreal Canadiens.

They had complete control of the game, dominating along the boards, getting pucks and traffic to the net, which led to their 1-0 advantage after a beautiful Matt Cooke goal 4:38 into the first period.

But after five minutes of continued domination, Ruslan Fedotenko took a foolish penalty in the offensive zone at 9:44 of the first that allowed the Canadiens to settle into the game.

From that point on, the Penguins got away from their physical game.

Instead, they started playing a Washington-esque style of play, hence their unsatisfactory outcome.

What do I mean by a Washington-esque game?

To put it plainly, like the ousted Capitals failed to do leading up to their eventual Game Seven undoing at the hands of the Canadiens in the first round, the Pens did not keep it simple after the first 10 minutes of the game.

Second chance opportunities were few and far between, and the level of physicality dropped immensely, as the Penguins tried out-finessing the Canadiens far too often.

At no point was this more evident than during the Penguins' multiple power-play opportunities in the third period.

Instead of getting bodies in front of Habs goaltender Jaroslav Halak, and putting pucks to the net, the Penguins insisted on trying to make the perfect play, a plan that failed the Washington Capitals.

Montreal's third goal was a product of a mistake made by Sidney Crosby that would not have happened had he just kept it simple.

While carrying the puck through the neutral zone, Crosby made an ill-advised pass to Evgeni Malkin instead of dumping the puck in deep, or carrying it into the zone, leading to the costly turnover that brought about a commanding 3-1 Habs lead that effectively put the game out of reach for Pittsburgh.

As the Penguins move forward in the series, they need to focus on one thing: do not play "Washington-esque" hockey. Stick to playing as they did in the first 10 minutes of Game Two, and Montreal will not stand a chance.

If they don't, Pittsburgh may suffer the same fate as the presently-golfing Capitals.